Progress provokes pushback, always has always will – Columnist Michael Coren
Toronto, ON – January 1st marked an increase in the minimum wage in Ontario, it rose from $11.60 an hour to $14.00 an hour and it will increase January 1, 2019 to $15.00 an hour.
Not surprisingly, the reaction from business was immediate and predictable. The Bank of Canada reported that this increase will cost 60,000 jobs. The surprise came on two fronts, the method some businesses chose to respond to the increase and the response by the general public to those methods!
In what has the potential to become a public relations disaster, iconic Canadian coffee retailer Tim Hortons reacted to the wage hike by taking it out on their employees! More than a dozen outlets across Ontario, including two in Coburg, east of Toronto, owned by heirs to the donut empire, Ron Joyce Jr. and Jeri Lyn Horton-Joyce, have cut employee breaks and benefits. Some outlets have taken away employee benefits, breaks and various perks while demanding its employees sign documents accepting these changes. The public outrage was swift and determined with social media calls for boycotts, citing Tim Horton’s has acted in a very un-Canadian manner! The Tim Horton reaction was the most publicized, because every major city in Canada has at least one outlet, but there were others, Cineplex is laying off staff, Sunset Grill is increasing tipping claw backs by 25 percent, Wimpy’s and East Side Mario’s have done the same.
“You must remember that major corporations employ 50% of all minimum wage workers in Ontario,” explains IAM Canadian General Vice President Stan Pickthall. “I wish every critic of this increase could live on the minimum wage for a while for a dose of reality. This kneejerk reaction by many businesses only shows how out of touch they are with their workers. Unlike CEO’s, these new wages are not held in offshore accounts, they go directly back into our economy”
The real minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, has remained constant since the late 1970’s. This means we have not really seen a change in wages at all for the last three to four decades while the cost of living has gone up.
In many European countries public policy sets the minimum wage in relation to other worker’s wages, at between 50 to 60 % of the average wage. Today the average hourly wage in Ontario is $26.43, so 60% of that would be $15.86 an hour. “There is no legislated minimum wage in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Italy,” explains Pickthall. “That’s because collective bargaining covers all workers, and minimum pay in these agreements is normally between 60 to 70% of average wage rates.” When the critics say our economy can’t afford $15.00 an hour because it too rich, Pickthall points out that the negotiated minimum in Denmark is $22.50 an hour CDN, the legislated minimum in Australia is $17.50 CDN. “Both countries compensate their lowest-paid workers much more than we do but have similar unemployment rates to Ontario’s six per cent,” he adds
Pickthall says statistics show that the majority of workers earning $14.00 an hour are not kids, in fact in 2016, 64% of minimum wage workers across Canada were adults. “Low wages help maximize profits, end of story,” said Pickthall. “There is an alternative for workers who want protection for their benefits, wages, hours of work, fairness in the workplace and respect on the job – join a union!”
Added Pickthall, “if you feel it’s time to be protected by a collective agreement, the IAM is happy to talk to you about it. There’s never been a better time to join a Union!”